The Rev. Gavin Pate writes the first in a series of blogs examining the seven deadly sins. During Lent, we are exploring how God’s grace confronts and conquers our sin.
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” –Genesis 2:25
As individuals, they bore the image of God. Together, they were a perfect picture of Trinitarian love. Then, the great act of disobedience, animating the reality of what was in the heart. Shame is present. Nakedness is no longer safe. Lust has been birthed.
As we entered this season of penitence, I began to realize that God’s graciousness is our basis for Lent. This truth threw me for a loop, much like a batter facing a change-up. My starting point for Lent was my own sin. Emotionally, I was approaching Lent as if I believed there was salvific power inside my own contrition.
When we consider the sin of lust, often we think of viewing modern pornography, couples having sexual affairs and the like. In our American experience, we are told that people who are not pushing the limits of sexual pleasure are living a half-life. In our most naive state, we assume it is a childish cycle that all men and some women experience, but eventually outgrow. In truth, it is a giant force in our entire culture. The movie 50 Shades of Grey was a smash hit, selling more than $100 million in tickets in its first weekend. Seven out of 10 moviegoers were female. People are hungry for intimacy, to be loved and to feel alive. We are grabbing for anything that comes close.
The comedian Louis C.K. has a bit where he jokes about a friend that comes to visit him in New York City. When they pass a homeless person, it doesn’t even register with him. The humanity of that person is non-existent, as he has become hardened to who is actually there. In contrast, this young lady from rural New Hampshire sees a person. Whether she knew it or not, she instinctively knew that this person was an image-bearer of God, homeless or not. And it was in that likeness that she found a reason to offer help. Unlike the rest of the group, she chose engage that person with dignity.
That young lady still had a sense of God’s way of viewing His creation. When we lust, we act like someone other than Our Lord. If we push our lens out even wider, we can see that at its root, lust is about stripping another person of their nature. Lust is our way of dehumanizing someone else and forcing them into our tinfoil kingdom. We create an alternative universe, doomed to destruction, where we are like gods and everyone we imagine or lay eyes on is a mere object for our carnal use.
Each one of us has probably committed this sin. If that grieves you, thank God. The man who cannot see the light at the end of this tunnel is more lost than he could imagine. People are image-bearers of God, not subjects in our selfish kingdoms. Our responsibility is to ask God, by His Holy Spirit, to help us see others as He sees them.